History site a treasure, but content is meager at uJewish

Friday, September 15, 2000 | by

James Besser



While lots of Web sites offer interesting smatterings of Jewish history, the site operated by the Dinur Center for Research in Jewish History at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem offers a veritable avalanche.

There's a huge amount of information here for those who want to go beyond the basics of Jewish history. But it's intelligently arranged so that even casual visitors won't be overwhelmed.

The home page offers a handful of choices, with pull-down menus for each.

So point your cursor at particular periods, and then select the time frame you're interested in reading about: "Biblical History," "Second Temple and Talmudic Era," all the way up to "Zionism & the State of Israel."

Each selection will give you a big menu of links to articles, reference work entries and the like.

In the "Medieval" section, for example, you'll find links to eight articles on Jews in Italy during this period. Want to read about the Kalonymous family, which played a major role in establishing a yeshiva in Rome in the ninth century? This is the place.

A "Resources" section will get you online syllabi from Jewish history classes and information on libraries, archives, bibliographies and archives. There's also data on conferences, grants and journals for Jewish historians and ordinary folks just interested in the subject.

This is a site that means business—no advertising, animated gimcracks or pretty pictures. But the information is attractively packaged, navigation is a breeze and the information is first rate. Check it out at: http://jewishhistory.huji.ac.il.

Jewish sites on the World Wide Web are getting slicker and more commercial, but that does not necessarily translate into better. A new magazine-style Jewish site aimed at a general audience, uJewish, smacks of professionalism: no seat-of-the-pants programming here, none of the quirky content that characterizes more home-grown Jewish sites.

But so far, the content is thin. And there's a focus on frothy things—beauty aids, trivia and the like—that will turn off some Jewish cybernauts.

The opening page offers some direct Jewish content: a "Parsha Corner" and "Ask the Rabbi" feature.

But higher up on the page is the real meat and potatoes of this site: general trivia, sports trivia, entertainment and chat rooms—more confection than meat, actually.

A "Sadchen" feature offers stripped-down ads from singles—no pics here, no elaborate questionnaires, just the facts, Ma'am. And less common for a Jewish site, there are "men seeking men" and "women seeking women" categories.

The "Yiddishe Mame" feature sounds like it's going to be a general advice column, but so far, it's empty. A book section features current bestseller lists, but there's nothing particularly Jewish here.

Want to sell all the junk lying around your house? Or the house itself? Classified ads will let you do that. If you're so inclined, there are beauty and fashion features and nutrition tips. Bronze and gold makeup is in, we learn, pastels are out.

A Jewish jokes offers a modest assortment, and a plea for more. Warning: Some of the jokes are a bit off-color. Viewer discretion advised.

Many of the features require registration—free, but a nuisance.

And so on. The uJewish site is attractive and easy to use, but so far it seems more driven by the marketers than the content providers. It's a pleasant enough rest stop on the Information Superhighway, but only time will tell if it will become a destination itself. Check it out at http://www.ujewish.com.